Fiat 126

Fiat 126
Polski Fiat 126p
Manufacturer Fiat (1972-1980)[1]
FSM (Polski Fiat 126p, 1973-1992)
Fiat Auto Poland (1992-2000)
Also called Zastava 126
Production 1972–2000
4,673,655 units
Designer Sergio Sartorelli
Body and chassis
Class City car (A)
Body style 2-door saloon/sedan
3-door hatchback (PF 126p Bis)
Layout RR layout
Related Fiat 133
SEAT 133
Engine 594 cc Straight-2
652 cc Straight-2
704 cc Straight-2
Wheelbase 1,840 mm (72.4 in)[2]
Length 3,054 mm (120.2 in)[2]
Width 1,378 mm (54.3 in)[2]
Height 1,302 mm (51.3 in)[2]
Curb weight 580–619 kilograms (1,279–1,365 lb)
Predecessor Fiat 500
Successor Fiat Cinquecento

The Fiat 126 (Type 126) is a city car introduced in October 1972 at the Turin Auto Show[1] as a replacement for the Fiat 500. Some were produced in Bielsko-Biała, Poland, as the Polski Fiat 126p until 2000. It was replaced by the front-engined Fiat Cinquecento in 1993.


The 126 used much of the same mechanical underpinnings and layout as its Fiat 500 rear-engined predecessor with which it shared its wheelbase, but featured an all new bodyshell resembling a scaled-down Fiat 127, also enhancing safety.

Engine capacity was increased from 594 cc to 652 cc at the end of 1977 when the cylinder bore was increased from 73.5 to 77 mm.[3] Claimed power output was unchanged at 23 hp (17 kW), but torque was increased from 39 N·m (29 lb·ft) to 43 newton metres (32 lb·ft).[3] The 594 cc engines were still available in early 1983 production.

A subsequent increase took the engine size to 704 cc in new "restyling" model Fiat 126 Bis (1987–1991), with 26 hp (19 kW) of motive power.

Fiat 126 post facelift (Italy)

In Italy, the car was produced in the plants of Cassino and Termini Imerese until 1979. By this time 1,352,912 of the cars had been produced in Italy.

The car continued however to be manufactured by FSM in Poland, where it was produced from 1973 to 2000 as the Polski Fiat 126p. Even after the introduction of the 126 Bis (a 126p with water-cooled 704 cc engine of indigenous Polish construction), the original model continued to be produced for the Polish market. The car was also produced under licence by Zastava in Yugoslavia. In 1984, the 126 received a facelift, giving it plastic bumpers (for all versions) and a new dashboard. This model named Fiat 126p FL. In 1994, the 126p received another facelift, and some parts from the Fiat Cinquecento, this version was named 126 EL. The 126 ELX introduced a catalytic converter.

Despite clever marketing, the 126 never achieved the frenzied popularity of the 500. The total number of 126 produced is: 1,352,912 in Italy, 3,318,674 in Poland, 2,069 in Austria, and an unknown number in Yugoslavia. For a brief period in the early 1990s, a German company called POP also offered convertible versions of the 126 BIS. Two models were offered: a lesser equipped one called the "POP 650" and a more luxurious model called the "POP 2000".

Polski Fiat 126p

1973 Polski Fiat 126p (Poland)

The car was produced in Poland under the brand Polski Fiat 126p (literally in English: Polish Fiat 126p) between 1973 and 2000. At first it was almost identical with the basic model: differences included a higher chassis, a modified grille on the back, and the front blinkers that were white in Italy but orange for other markets. To distinguish it from the original Italian car, the letter "p" was added to its name. It was produced by Fabryka Samochodów Małolitrażowych (FSM) in Bielsko-Biała and Tychy under Italian Fiat licence. Throughout the 1980s the 126p was continuously modified. First it received upgraded brakes and new wheels from Italian Fiat, hazard blinkers were added to meet new law requirements, in 1985 tail fog light and factory back-up light were added to then standard plastic bumpers, an electronic ignition system and alternator replaced undersized generator around 1987. The factory battery in 126p had only 35 Amp-hour capacity which combined with undersized generator resulted in never fully charged battery unless someone drove the car without stopping for extended time period. Some owners upgraded to a 45 Amp-hour battery from Fiat 125p (1.5 Liter engine) to improve the cold start reliability. Due to a relatively low price it was very popular in Poland and was arguably the most popular car there in the 1980s. Its very small size gave it the nickname maluch ("the small one","small child", pronounced [ˈmalux]). The nickname became so popular that in 1997 it was accepted by the producer as the official name of the car.

1989–1993 FSM Niki (Australia)

It was exported to many Eastern Bloc countries and for several years it was one of the most popular cars in Poland and in Hungary as well. It also found a minor market in Australia between 1989 and 1992, under the name FSM Niki. During that period it was Australia's cheapest car.[4] There was a convertible version developed for Australian market.

Throughout the 1980s there were several experimental prototypes developed in Poland. A cargo version called "Bombel" (literally can mean "a bubble" but referred to a familial and alternative term for "small child") for its fiberglass bubble shaped cargo enclosure, an off road version propelled by caterpillar tracks and a front wheel drive, front engine, with longer front end and flat cargo area in the rear where the original 126 had engine. The rear of this prototype was similar to the 126 Bis which also had a rear hatch for accessing the cargo space above the flat water-cooled engine hidden in the floor. There was also an attempt at installing a small diesel engine (due to gasoline rationing) in the classic 126p body. It is also a popular platform for electric engine and motorcycle engine swaps .

History of PF 126p

The global production of this amiable car was 4,673,655 units: 1,352,912 in Italy, 2,069 in Austria by Fiat-Steyr and 3,318,674 in Poland.

Political connotations

Poland 1973 - curiosity about passers-by

The PF 126p has special meaning for Poles and its story had a connection with Polish politics during the communist period (Polish People's Republic, up to 1989). During the absolute rule of the PZPR, a private car was considered a luxury good, due to limited availability and low salaries. In 1971 there were only 556,000 passenger cars in Poland.[6] In a top-down planned economy, decisions on whether a state-owned factory could produce a car were taken on political and not just economic grounds. The authorities themselves initially did not find the idea of private cars attractive. The first relatively cheap Polish car was the Syrena, but it was outmoded and its production was limited. Limited numbers of cars were also imported from other Eastern Bloc countries. It was difficult to buy a western car because the Polish złoty, like other currencies in communist states, was not convertible to western funds and there was no free market in the country.

Thus, the PF 126p was intended to be the first real, popular and affordable car, to motorize ordinary families. The licence was bought after the rise to power of a new PZPR leader, Edward Gierek, who wanted to gain popular favour by increasing consumption after the Spartan period under Władysław Gomułka. Despite the fact that it was a very small city car, it was the only choice for most families, playing the role of a family car. During holidays, it was common to see four-person families driving PF-126s abroad with huge suitcases on a roof rack; sightings of PF-126s towing a small Niewiadów N126 caravan specially designed for the PF 126 were also occasionally reported.[7] PF 126p production, however, was not sufficient and the PF 126p was distributed through a waiting list. Usually families had to wait a couple of years to buy a car.[7] A coupon for a car could also be given by the authorities based on merit.


In Poland it is called Maluch, which literally means "small one" or toddler,[8] as well as mały Fiat ("small Fiat"), in contrast to Fiat 125p, called duży Fiat ("big Fiat").[9] In some regions, it is also called Kaszlak[10] literally "cougher" (derived from kaszel meaning "cough", as its engine's sound resembles a cough when it is started).

Fiat 126p in Havana, Cuba, March 2014

In Albania and Kosovo it is known as Kikirez.

In Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian it is known as Peglica (meaning "little iron").[11]

In Slovene the 126 is also called Bolha ("flea"),[12] Piči-poki (loosely translated as "fast-and-loud") or Kalimero on Slovenian coast after a cartoon character Calimero.

In Hungarian, it is known as kispolszki ("little Polish", while the 125p is the nagypolszki, meaning "big Polish"), kispolák ("little Pole") or kispók ("little spider"); also, the car was nicknamed egérkamion, meaning "a mouse's truck".

In Germany the Fiat 126 was known as the Bambino, the Italian word for child.[13]

In Cuba it is known as "Polaquito" and in Chile as "Bototo".

In China the 126P was known as "大头鞋(dàtoúxié)" which literally translates as "big toed shoe".


  1. 1 2 "Fiat 126 Key Dates Time Line - illustrating the life of the original Fiat 126 from 72', the Fiat 126 de ville and the Fiat 126 BIS". Retrieved 9 May 2009.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "1973 Fiat 126 Technical specifications". Retrieved 25 February 2010.
  3. 1 2 Ferdinand Simoneit (Ed) (23 November 1977). "Mehr Hubraum und Drehmoment fuer den Fiat 126". Auto, Motor und Sport. 24: 20.
  4. "FSM Niki 650, too little, too late". Transeum. Retrieved 29 August 2011.
  5. Włodarz, Adam (18 December 2006). "Polski Fiat 126p - Przez książeczkę do Fiata" (in Polish). Auto Swiat. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  6. Zaremba, Marcin (2004). "Good bye, Gierek!". Polityka (in Polish). 45 (2477): 79.
  7. 1 2 Zakrzewski, Adam (2010). pp.72-83
  8. Turnock, David (1997). The East European economy in context: communism and transition. Taylor & Francis. p. 307. ISBN 978-0-415-08626-4. Retrieved 6 November 2010.
  9. Swan, Oscar E. (1986). Intermediate Polish. Slavica Publishers. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-89357-165-8. Retrieved 6 November 2010.
  10. Czeszewski, Maciej (2006). Słownik polszczyzny potocznej (in Polish). Wydawn. Naukowe PWN. p. 129. ISBN 978-83-01-14631-3. Retrieved 6 November 2010.
  11. Labourdette, Jean-Paul, Dominique Auzias (2007). Przewodnik Chorwacja (in Polish). Petit Fute. p. 222. ISBN 978-83-60496-20-6. Retrieved 6 November 2010.
  12. Weiss, Peter (1998). Slovar govorov Zadrečke doline med Gornjim gradom in Nazarjami. Znanstvenoraziskovalni center SAZU. p. 206. ISBN 978-961-6182-47-8. Retrieved 6 November 2010.
  13. Deiss, Richard (2010). Silberling und Bügeleisen - 1000 Spitznamen in Transport und Verkehr und was dahinter steckt (in German). Ausstattung/Bilder. p. 50. ISBN 978-3-8391-6269-9. Retrieved 6 November 2010.
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